What To Do When Your Email Account is Hacked
Email security is a major concern for most people, as hacked accounts can compromise personal information and lead to financial loss. If a hacker gains access to your email account, they may also be able to use your details to access your online banking, credit card, social media and other accounts. In addition, hackers can send spam and infected emails to everyone in your address book, causing havoc for friends, family and work colleagues. If your email account is hacked, you can minimize the damage by following a few simple steps.
Secure Your Account
If you suspect any kind of unauthorised access to your emails, the first thing you need to do is secure your account. Gaining access to your account may be difficult if a hacker has changed your password, so you may need to contact your email provider. Once you have signed in to your email account, change your password straight away, as this will lock the hacker out of your account. Choose a strong password that uses a mixture of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and special characters. Avoid using whole words or significant names and dates, such as the name of your pet or date of an anniversary.
Assess the Damage
Check your inbox, spam folder and recycle bin for clues about the hacker’s activities. Hackers often try to gain access to online banking and other financial accounts by having new passwords or password reset emails sent to a hacked email address. If you find suspicious emails indicating that someone has accessed your financial or other accounts, contact the account provider immediately to let them know your details have been compromised. In addition, check your sent email folder to see if spam or infected email has been sent to your contacts. If possible, warn friends and family to delete any earlier messages received from your email address.
Scan Your Computers and Devices
Scan all of your computers, laptops, tablets, mobile phones and other devices to check for viruses and infected files or programs. Hackers can install malicious software and infected files on your computers and devices, allowing them to capture usernames, passwords and sensitive information. A good antivirus program will be able to identify and remove any suspicious files, but it’s also important to update the software regularly to ensure the latest security definitions are installed. If you don’t have anything detected on your machine it could be your password was stolen in a phishing attempt. This means you entered your password into a site that looked like your webmail/account that was compromised.
Using strong, unique passwords is essential for keeping your email and other accounts secure. Never use the same password for multiple accounts, as this increases the risk of unauthorised access. If you find it difficult to remember passwords, consider using a password manager or other security application to automatically sign in to your accounts from approved devices. Most email providers now offer a two-step verification process, adding an extra layer of security to your account. For example, Google’s Gmail offers a mobile phone verification service that enables you to choose which devices have access to your emails.
Occasionally, a hacker can do permanent damage to an email account. For example, sending thousands of spam or infected emails to businesses and individuals could result in your email address being added to a block list. While it may be possible to have the block removed, it’s often easier to change your email address.